“Diversity.” It’s the biggest buzzword on a college campus. It is the word that determines potential employment, social status, and sometimes, academic opportunity success. It seems that the color of one’s skin, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation are the only determining factors for who is “diverse” and who is not, and the more boxes one can check on the laundry list of “diverse identities,” the more their campus community seems to praise them – unless they happen to check a single box: “conservative.” Members of the millennial generation have self-assembled into an army of social justice warriors, who claim to fight against intolerance of diverse identities on a daily basis with passion and fervor, and use the basis of their identity to make virtually every political decision under the facade of “identity politics.” What’s most surprising, however, is that these so called “warriors” who champion racial, ethnic, and gender diversity the most are also those who most vocally oppose diversity of thought, especially when it affects the “safe spaces” they fight for on college campuses.
The social justice warriors standing firm against any diversity of thought are not only millennials, however: they are our professors and administrators on campus, too. A 2014 study conducted at The University of California, Los Angeles, determined that while 59.8% of professors identify as liberal, only 12.8% of professors openly identify as conservative. I, myself, experienced the extreme bias associated with professors following the 2016 presidential election. All of my professors in Spanish and Science classes, who came to teach clad in black clothing and veils, symbolizing the death of their ideals, spent the entire class period in tears, denouncing the President-Elect of the United States and anyone who voted for him.
What does this mean for college students? More and more, students are seeing the social justice warrior mentality invade the classroom, even in fields furthest from political science. If a student is not a person of color, someone from the LGBTQ+ community, from another country, or did not cast their vote for Hillary, their experience is no longer valid to some professors. Further, if students fail to agree with their biased professors, even on assignments or exams, they see the ramifications affect their GPA. Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, said it best in a PragerU video entitled, The Least Diverse Place in America, “Universities want everyone to look different, but think exactly the same.” Our generation is big on diversity, but for conservative students in academia, practicing diversity of thought could be the end of their dreams of graduate or professional school or employment.
Especially on college campuses, identity politics may provide the guise of a community of like minded individuals, but the reality about identity politics is that they are fracturing America’s political factions. All of a sudden, no longer is it acceptable to identify as just a “liberal.” To be considered a true liberal, one must also tack on endless labels related to identities. One of my closest liberal friends shared with me her recent disdain for the LGBTQ+ community, despite her identity as a lesbian woman. After trying to get more involved with the LGBTQ+ community on campus through our PRIDE Center, a student-fee funded diversity office dedicated to offering a safe space for individuals in this community, she came to the conclusion that she must be a bad lesbian. After all, she only had one “label” to her name, and couldn’t even understand what many of the words associated with LGBTQ+ people meant. She described to me conversations with other students who introduced themselves as, “demisexual, queer, non-binary, transgender, etc.” before even taking a breath. They scoffed at her inability to tack on more labels to her identity—could she possibly be that shallow? My friend decided not to pursue further involvement in the PRIDE Center. Instead, she engaged in other opportunities through the classroom, but her frustrations seem to increase daily. Just last week, she explained to me that her “queer expressions” class, which initially proclaimed to define and celebrate queer people, has instead been focused on a single mantra: that unless someone identifies as both black and queer, their experience cannot possibly involve oppression. To this, my friend was shocked. As both a lesbian and an individual with a disability, she had believed that her life experience was wonderfully unique. Alas, because of her white skin, it’s not—at least on her campus. The truth about identity politics is this: they don’t bring people together—they divide. On our college campuses which so desperately seek a vehicle for unification, they continue to catalyze chaos.
If we champion diversity of race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation, shouldn’t we equally fight for diversity on our campuses of the things that we can’t check off a box for? What about our diverse life experiences, our family history, value sets, or personality traits? After all, aren’t these the things that shape who we are and what we will become, rather than the color of our skin or who we choose to date?